Mapling It in Marshall

By: Paula Green


Back in 2010, Marshall Township resident Clay McLeod knocked on the door of neighboring residents Roger and Betty Boff.  He asked them an unusual question – “Can I tap the maple trees on your property?”  The Boff’s house in Marshall sits on five and a half acres of land, and has numerous maples (about 30 trees) that sit closely together.  After much thought, Roger and Betty gave Clay permission to do the tapping.  “At first I was a little bit concerned that it would kill the trees,” but it didn’t take long before we realized that Clay knew exactly what he was doing,” Betty commented.

Clay has been doing tree tapping since 2007 when he watched the procedure being done at his daughter’s house.  “I am a hands-on type of person, and found it to be interesting so I decided to try it myself,” he said.  Tapping the Boff’s maples has become an annual event for Clay.  Around mid-winter (end of January or early February) he spends a day inserting taps, and placing buckets on the trees.

“The sap will flow when temperatures are above freezing. It’s no secret Mother Nature controls all, I just follow her lead” Clay noted.

Once the sap flows out of the trees and it is gathered in the buckets, the process of making maple syrup begins.  According to Clay it takes 60 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup.  He gathers the sap when it is running.  “If you don’t empty the buckets and process it, then the sap spoils just like milk,” Clay mentioned.

Clay takes the sap back to his place (a work shop in Marshall) and he uses a wood burning stove to boil the sap.  It boils for about 11 to 12 hours before it turns into pure maple syrup.  As he noted, “It needs to boil until it reaches 219 degrees.” After the sap become syrup, Clay then cans it in mason jars.  He doesn’t sell the finished product; he gives it away to family and friends.  Of course, he also gives some to Roger and Betty Boff for kindly allowing him access to their trees. Once the syrup is opened, it needs to be refrigerated.

In addition to tapping to the Boff’s trees, Clay says he taps about ten others in the area.  He accepts sap from friends who tap their own trees. The end result of Clay’s hard labor is a delicious, pure maple syrup free of additives and preservatives.  It is a perfect pairing with warm pancakes, waffles and other tasty delicacies.